The Future Looks Swedish? Volvo Inks a Deal to Supply Uber's Driverless Dreams

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Building on a strategic partnership announced in August last year, Volvo has signed a framework agreement with Uber to sell “tens of thousands” of autonomous driving compatible base vehicles between 2019 and 2021.

While reading the report, it was important for this author to keep in mind the challenge in affixing an actual definition to the words autonomous driving. There have been shouty voices in various parts of the internet disputing the terms autonomous, Autopilot, and self-driving. There is merit to these arguments.

Nevertheless, Volvo is working with Uber to create technology that will allow vehicles to move about without a driver providing input 100 percent of the time.

The non-exclusive agreement — and it is important to note the word non-exclusive – furthers the partnership between Volvo and Uber while also writing a new chapter in the convergence of car makers and tech companies. Or, if one doesn’t view it as a full chapter, it’s at least more than a simple footnote.

The base for these vehicles is being developed on Volvo’s modular Scalable Product Architecture, which was developed in-house by the engineering boffins at the Swedish company. It is currently used on Volvo’s top-of-the-line 90 series machines, such as the XC90 and gorgeous (but special-order only) V90. The new XC60 midsize SUV deploys this Scalable Product Architecture as well.

“Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing service providers globally,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive. “Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

Volvo Cars’ engineers have apparently worked with engineers from Uber to develop the XC90 premium SUVs that are planned to be supplied to Uber. The base vehicles incorporate safety, redundancy, and core autonomous (there’s that word again) driving technologies which are required for Uber to add its own self-driving technology.

The relationship is not monogamous. At the same time as providing Uber with AD-compatible cars, Volvo will use the same base vehicle in the development of its own independent autonomous car strategy, which is planned to culminate in the release of its first fully autonomous car (Volvo’s language) in 2021.

[Images: Volvo Cars]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

More by Matthew Guy

Join the conversation
  • Asdf Asdf on Nov 21, 2017

    The headline makes no sense. "The Future Looks Chinese" would have made more sense, given the fact that Volvo is a Chinese automaker.

    • See 1 previous
    • Conundrum Conundrum on Nov 21, 2017

      @Garrett For about a century, the people of Britain and Germany have been buying Fords, mistakenly believing they were actually native vehicles. Having lived there I know the average dolt on the street doesn't know or care that actually Ford is American, so the people could have avoided buying them if they cared about the national identity of the true owners. GM did the same with Vaukhall and Opel till recently. I do not see the difference between this scenario and the Chinese ownership of Volvo. Is it only an OK business tactic if Americans do it, but an unforgiveable sin when someone else does it? Apparently so, say the knuckledraggers of "Murica. What about when that $1 billion Volvo factory opens in SC in 2019?

  • Daniel J I love my mazda 6. It's getting harder and harder to drive it around where I live as municipalities fail to repair roads. SUVs are just easier to drive with all of the potholes.
  • 1995 SC On the plus side, I found a sedan I want to buy
  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.